A major challenge many people face is how to prepare their home for sale. A good real-estate agent can help move you in the right direction...

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A major challenge many people face is how to prepare their home for sale.

A good real-estate agent can help move you in the right direction, but there are things you can do on your own to get a head start.

Don’t make radical changes without careful consideration. Frequently, radical changes such as updating the kitchen or remodeling are not going to pay off. For example, your kitchen may be small, at least by today’s standards. Almost anyone buying the home would want to enlarge the kitchen anyway, so why go to that bother and expense?

Talk with a real-estate agent to find out whether major changes should be considered. If it’s something your home desperately needs — a new roof or new exterior paint job, for example — it might be worthwhile. In general, any preparations should be directed toward making your home as clean and look as good as it possibly can.

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Maximize curb appeal.

This is the impression made by your home when a potential buyer arrives to see it for the first time. That initial impression is worth a great deal. If a home is even halfway decent inside, a good curb-appeal impression will help it sell itself.

Here are some ways to generate better curb appeal:

• Repair any cracks in the driveway or walkway and resurface if necessary.

• Keep the landscaping clean and neat.

• Make sure the home looks freshly painted.

• Keep the garage doors closed when potential buyers visit.

• Make sure garbage cans and other paraphernalia are out of sight.

Inside your home, the key words are cleanliness and clutter. Your home should be so clean that a Marine sergeant with a white glove couldn’t find dust or dirt. For example:

• Every window should be thoroughly cleaned on both sides.

• Every bathroom and the kitchen should sparkle.

• Your carpets should be shampooed, your floors should glisten, and your faucets and handles should be free of water spots and polished until they gleam.

Clear the clutter to make the inside of your home look as big as possible. You might also consider removing most or all the items from your kitchen and bathroom counters. You want storage areas to look spacious, so you may want to take some items out of closets and free up shelves from the clutter of knickknacks.

If you have something on your wall — a quotation, sign or picture — that someone may find offensive, remove it.

When you show your home, make it a pleasant experience. Have fresh flowers you can display and put out a plate of cookies. (There’s nothing like a sugar high.)

Speaking of smells, use them to your advantage. Have a small bowl of vanilla warming in the oven or a slow cooker of apple cider brewing and a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies baking.

— Nick Harder, The Orange County Register